Trawl­ing for Sus­tain­abil­ity: Nor­way is work­ing with Thai­land to im­prove its fish­eries man­age­ment

Nor­way is work­ing with Thai­land to im­prove its fish­eries man­age­ment, im­part­ing some of the knowl­edge it has learned in re­struc­tur­ing a key sec­tor

Norway-Asia Business Review - - Contents - HAR­VEY BROCK

Thai­land de­cided in re­cent years it wants to re­form its fish­eries xin­dus­try to be­come more sus­tain­able. Hav­ing col­lab­o­rated with Nor­way in the past, Thai­land ap­proached the coun­try about shar­ing some lessons from its ex­pe­ri­ence in this field. To that end, the two coun­tries set up a tech­ni­cal co­op­er­a­tion project in Phuket through the as­sis­tance of the Royal Nor­we­gian Embassy, the Nor­we­gian Agency for De­vel­op­ment Co­op­er­a­tion, Nor­way’s In­sti­tute of Ma­rine Re­search and its Fish­eries Depart­ment.

The re­sults of the project were im­proved gov­er­nance of ma­rine aqua­cul­ture in Thai­land, use of new tech­nolo­gies in­volv­ing hatch­eries in­clud­ing cage farm­ing and value chain de­vel­op­ment, and cre­at­ing reg­u­la­tions for fish health and en­vi­ron­men­tal health im­pact as­sess­ments.

“Fish­eries have been an im­por­tant part of our econ­omy for some time,” said Song­phol Sukchan, Di­rec­tor Gen­eral of the Euro­pean Af­fairs Depart­ment in the For­eign Af­fairs Min­istry. “Thai­land is still the largest ex­porter of canned tuna in the world. Twenty-four of our 77 prov­inces have a coast­line and there are a lot of fish­er­men em­ployed in this sec­tor.”

“In the past, eco­nomic sta­bil­ity and sus­tain­abil­ity were not mo­ti­vat­ing fac­tors, and this led to over­fish­ing in some in­stances.

“The government looked into the is­sue and de­cided we needed to re­form the in­dus­try. In the past two years we have passed 190 laws re­lated to fish­eries. Last year a new Royal Or­di­nance was is­sued on fish­eries, the first in 40 or 50 years, so many of these new laws were up­dat­ing reg­u­la­tions de­signed decades ago.

“Of course much of this im­pe­tus for change was driven by the EU’s yel­low card for il­le­gal, un­reg­u­lated and un­re­ported [IUU] fish­ing is­sued in 2015. This led to the for­ma­tion of the Com­mand Cen­ter to Com­bat Il­le­gal Fish­ing [CCCIF], chaired by the Thai Royal Navy.

“One ma­jor change was the fish­ing li­cens­ing plan was changed from open ac­cess to lim­ited ac­cess. Li­cens­ing can­not ex­ceed the ma­rine area’s capacity to pro­duce an­i­mals, mean­ing the amount of catch is lim­ited.

“The amount of time dur­ing the year you can fish is also lim­ited in or­der to al­low fish to breed. We also limit some fish­ing tools that are known to be detri­men­tal to the fish stock.

“In ad­di­tion we have set up all ships with over 30 gross ton­nage with ve­hi­cle mon­i­tor­ing sys­tems that pro­vide a record of where the ves­sels travel and im­proves the trace­abil­ity of the fleet.

“We also es­tab­lished 24 port-in, port-out check-in cen­tres in 22 prov­inces that check the li­cence, reg­is­tra­tion, fish­ing gear, crew and sea­man’s ser­vice book of ev­ery ship that en­ters and leaves the ports. We want to use FAO [Food and Agri­cul­ture Or­ga­ni­za­tion of the UN] port mea­sures as a guide­line for our port-in, port-out reg­u­la­tions. Our goal is to add four more cen­tres by the end of the year.

“The government is also pre­par­ing reg­u­la­tions to be ad­mit­ted to the UN Fish Stocks Agree­ment. It is very im­por­tant that we keep our stock sus­tain­able if we want the in­dus­try to last.”

The co­op­er­a­tion project pro­duced rec­om­men­da­tions for some of these changes. Other sugges­tions in­cluded a freeze on the num­ber of trawler and push net li­cences is­sued, the in­stal­la­tion of ar­ti­fi­cial reefs to al­low habi­tat to re­ha­bil­i­tate, im­pos­ing min­i­mum le­gal mesh sizes for trawls and purse sein­ers, and pro­mot­ing com­mu­nity-based fish­eries man­age­ment.

Rec­om­men­da­tions for gov­er­nance in­cluded im­proved mon­i­tor­ing and en­force­ment to stop IUU fish­ing and us­ing acous­tic equip­ment to mea­sure fish

stocks.

In August this year the Thai government joined with Nor­way to or­gan­ise a sem­i­nar here on fish­eries sus­tain­abil­ity that brought in Vi­dar Land­mark, the Di­rec­tor Gen­eral of the Fish­eries and Aqua­cul­ture Depart­ment from Nor­way’s Trade, In­dus­try and Fish­eries Min­istry. They held a work­shop that fo­cused on quota sys­tems, hatch­eries and nurs­eries.

Mr Land­mark also of­fered some ad­vice on co­op­er­at­ing with neigh­bour­ing coun­tries, as most ma­rine re­sources have shared bor­ders. He said there should be an agree­ment on shared stock al­lot­ment and there should be some ba­sic prin­ci­ples such as a dis­card ban, pro­tec­tion of ju­ve­niles, and reduction of un­wanted by-catch. Neigh­bours should build trust through close con­tact over time and es­tab­lish­ment of joint sci­en­tific pro­grammes, said Mr Land­mark.

Mr Song­phol said the Thai fish­eries in­dus­try is work­ing to adopt some of these changes but the process takes time, a fact Mr Land­mark con­ceded in not­ing Nor­way is at a dif­fer­ent stage of de­vel­op­ment in this sec­tor.

“The in­dus­try is work­ing to im­prove its trace­abil­ity sys­tems,” said Mr Song­phol. “They are not per­fect yet, but we are adding an on­line catch cer­ti­fi­ca­tion sys­tem that lets a con­sumer know which ship the catch came from and how long it’s been at sea.”

“The government has al­ready reg­is­tered 150,000 mi­grant fish­eries work­ers from border coun­tries so they can be recog­nised and won’t be ex­ploited. We have also in­creased our in­spec­tions on fish­ing boats and at fac­to­ries to en­sure there are not un­doc­u­mented work­ers.

“We are work­ing with neigh­bour­ing coun­tries on a mem­o­ran­dum of un­der­stand­ing to recog­nise mi­grant labour­ers so they will not be taken ad­van­tage of in any coun­try. Fish­eries re­form is a top pri­or­ity for the government and Prime Min­is­ter Prayut Chan-o-cha has made it one of his pet projects, so it will not slip off the radar.

“Ul­ti­mately the au­thor­ity for all these changes is go­ing to re­side with the Fish­eries Depart­ment. They are try­ing to re­struc­ture the depart­ment now and in­crease its man­power. In the mean­time, re­form will be driven by the CCCIF with help from the Agri­cul­ture Min­istry.

“Nor­way has had a pres­ence in the Phuket area since 2005, help­ing teach Thais about large-cage fish farm­ing tech­nol­ogy. Re­cently they started teach­ing us about float­ing cage tech­nol­ogy. One of our goals is to de­velop a coast­line re­search cen­tre to cre­ate a hub for these meth­ods. Thai­land is send­ing post-grad­u­ate stu­dents to Nor­way to learn about some of these tech­nolo­gies.

“Of course when­ever you try to re­form a whole in­dus­try there is go­ing to be out­cry from stake­hold­ers. Some lo­cal fish­er­men have asked the government how are they go­ing to put food on the ta­ble to­mor­row if there are quo­tas. It is a process that takes time to ed­u­cate peo­ple across the sup­ply chain about the im­por­tance of sus­tain­abil­ity, but the government is com­mit­ted to that process. I no­ticed that Ice­land with­drew its ap­pli­ca­tion to join the EU be­cause of fish­ing quo­tas.

“Some­times change is painful. We have had stake­hold­ers com­plain that the im­pact of the changes is too se­vere. The CCCIF has a chan­nel to eval­u­ate com­plaints if the ef­fect of rule changes is im­mense. A panel will look at po­ten­tial reme­dies and try to ad­just poli­cies.

“In Thai­land many of the large seafood com­pa­nies are co­or­di­nat­ing with the government to fight IUU fish­ing. The Thai Frozen Food As­so­ci­a­tion, the Fish­eries As­so­ci­a­tion Coali­tion, the Thai Cham­ber of Com­merce, the Fed­er­a­tion of Thai In­dus­tries and the Joint Stand­ing Com­mit­tee on Com­merce, In­dus­try and Bank­ing signed a mem­o­ran­dum of un­der­stand­ing to work with the government to com­bat il­le­gal fish­ing and make the in­dus­try more sus­tain­able.

“For ex­am­ple, a cou­ple of months ago a ma­jor pro­ducer found out that pre-pro­cess­ing of shrimp it uses was be­ing done by il­le­gal mi­grant labour. It ended that re­la­tion­ship and brought pre­pro­cess­ing in-house.

“Now when a com­pany is un­sure about the source they’re buy­ing from, they might buy from a dif­fer­ent sup­plier in another coun­try. The goal is to im­prove trace­abil­ity through­out the sup­ply chain.

“The government is hold­ing meet­ings with the Over­seas Fish­eries As­so­ci­a­tion too. It ap­pears that ev­ery­one is on board with the same agenda.”

PHOTO: ISTOCKPHOTO

Above left: Sev­eral Thai fish­ing boats are moored to­gether off­shore on the An­daman Sea. The spot­light has re­cently been on these ves­sels for al­le­ga­tions of slav­ery and hu­man traf­fick­ing. Above: School of mack­erel in Asian wa­ters. PHOTO: ISTOCKPHOTO

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